Growth & Jobs | Kelly’s Find Space in water sports industry
"Did two dives here at Kelly's Water Sports. Staff was amazing and so were the dive spots. Definitely recommend and will be back again for more on my next trip,"
- Jeff Scott, a sport diver, who lives in the United States of America, posted on his company's Facebook page in June.
Water sports is one of the most vibrant sectors of the tourism industry, giving credence to the sustainability of the sector; and Beulah Kelly, along with her husband, Clifford, are among its newest players. They started Kelly's Water Sports in 2011, and by consistently satisfying visitors to Jamaica, such as Jeff Scott, their business has rapidly expanded.
"I have always been in the water sports business and worked for five different companies," said Mrs Kelly. "In fact, the last company I managed made me realise that far more opportunities existed. Conscious that the owner was benefiting from our expertise and was expanding, I decided that if I could manage a business for someone, which was growing, then I could do it for myself," she added.
She subsequently left her management job at the water sports company and, along with her husband, started their own business. Kelly's Water Sports now operates from two locations in St James, one at the Sunscape Resort, Montego Freeport, the other at The Hilton Rose Hall Resort and Spa.
Montegonians Beulah and Clifford Kelly are both certified lifeguards and coxswains; and Clifford is certified by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors.
"Starting off was not difficult, because I have been in water sports all my life," she related. "We owned a speedboat and a dive boat and (we) were able to purchase a glass-bottomed boat. Therefore, with our experience and equipment, we were able to secure solid contracts."
As a result, they now offer glass-bottomed boat rides, waterskiing, tubing, scuba diving and other water-sports services.
"Sunscape Hotel didn't have a water sports attraction and they invited us to submit a proposal. We did and they accepted it. Later, the Hilton Hotel contacted us and we sent them a proposal as well, which they also accepted, and we establish another location there," Mrs Kelly related.
"The water sports industry has a lot of potential," she explained. "There is scope for growth, because during the peak season, many tourists and locals come here to participate in the various attractions, therefore it gets hectic sometimes."
'Our products and services will only get better'
Kelly's Water Sports, operating from two locations in St James, employs 25 staff members and frequently nurtures interns from the Tourism Product Development Company and the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF).
There is ongoing need for investment in staff training to maintain a high standard of service. Some of their biggest challenges include the shortage of trained persons to meet the high season demand, and the cost of equipment, which becomes an issue when the Jamaican currency is in freefall.
"In the early days, we rented a parasail boat. However, we soon realised that it was costing us more per month for rental, than it cost to maintain our existing three boats. Therefore, we decided to acquire a new boat to help meet our demand and save money," Beulah Kelly explained.
As the Kellys pondered their need for additional equipment, shortly after opening their second location, they turned to JN Small Business Loans (JNSBL) for assistance, based on the fact that JNSBL, through the TEF, provides loans to small business operators in the tourism sector.
"I knew that we needed to purchase a new boat to do parasailing, however, we didn't want to use up all our funds," she explained. "Therefore, we went to JNSBL, which was our second loan; again, we found that the loan process was smooth, and since then, we have maintained a relationship with the company and they have always been there for us," Mrs Kelly related.
Gillian Hyde, general manager, JNSBL, a member of the Jamaica National Group, said that providing funding for Kelly's Water Sports was not a difficult decision, given the JNSBL's relationship with TEF.
"Mr and Mrs Kelly provide jobs and have invested in a business which adds value to our tourism product," Hyde stated. "And, it is operations such as Kelly's Water Sport that will assist in enhancing our country's position as a tourist destination. Therefore, we were happy to support for their business and welcome the continuation of our relationship."
The Kellys are active promoters who market their water sports business via brochures, referrals, a website and social media.
Beulah Kelly says she also gets assistance from her three children, to take advantage of the online opportunities.
"My youngest daughter, who is a student at Mount Alvernia Preparatory and Kindergarten School, is always at one of the locations, whenever she gets the chance. She loves it."
In addition to their two existing locations, the Kelly's plan to add another soon.
Reflecting on her passion for water sports, Beulah Kelly said, "After I left high school, I went to the Montego Bay Community College and then decided that water sports was the business I wanted to pursue.
"Clifford and I both love what we are doing," she maintained. "We are confident that our products and services will only get better, because we believe in excellence and delivering quality service."